Friday, 23 January 2015

Thursday, 22 January 2015

John Allison brings 'Giant Days' to Boom! with Lissa Reiman [preview]

By Lissa Reiman

Announced in December, this March will see Boom publish a new, six-issue run of John Allison's Giant Days comic. Allison, best known for his Bad Machinery comics, published in print by Oni Press, originally ran Giant Days as one of his online comics at his Scary Go Round website. The series followed Esther De Groot and a rag-tag group of friends and hanger ons as they negotiated first Freshers Week and then university life aproper (with a bit of spookiness thrown in, from what I remember). Written and drawn by Allison it featured his signature humour, sharp characterisation and ear for dialogue. I'm happy to see anything from Allison, and this is an interesting move for him (he previously announced he'd be wrapping up Bad machinery soon and has new projects in the works), as he'll be undertaking writing duties only, with artist Lissa Reiman illustrating the book. A large portion of what makes Allison's comics tick, and well, his, is the fact that he draws them, with a unifying expression and speech woven from word to tone to page. Reiman's art looks a little less lively but still pretty good great none-the-less; I'm intrigued to see how it'll read as a whole. As much as I love Bad Machinery and hose pesky kids, I liked Giant Das that much more for being a bit more adult and featuring female characters around my own age.

This looks to be a great, short new series that will be smart and fun, for readers with an eye out for well-written, entertaining comics; something a bit fresh (I can't think of another university set or 'normal' 20-something, female-led comic, but there might be one out there). Esther, Daisy and Susan all start university at the same time and three weeks in have become fast friends thanks to their dorm rooms being located next to each other. Away from home for the first time, all three decide this is the opportunity to reinvent themselves. However, it seems they're destined to thwarted by a range of obstacles: hand-wringing boys, personal experimentation, flu, mystery mold, nuchauvinism, and actual university assignments, all of which cast doubt on whether they'll even survive the term. I'm so glad they decided to keep it all British- it's set up north, in the University of Sheffield, that horrible (somehow allegedly voted best university in the UK) place at which I did my Masters...

(via Robot 6)

Alison Bechdel, Lewis Trondehim, Jacques Tardi, Jamie Hernandez, Kate Beaton, and more, protest SodaStream's sponsorship of Angoulême comics festival

Lewis Trondheim, Jamie Hernandez, Jose Munoz, Igort, Alison Bechdel, Kate Beaton, Ben Katchor, Gabby Shulz, Eleanor Davis, Warren Ellis, Dylan Horrocks, Jacques Tardi, and more are among over 80 signatories who  have put their names to an open letter to Franck Bondoux, the head of French comics festival Angoulême -a show that is widely considered the medium's most prestigious event of its kind- asking him to end its association with Israeli drinks manufacturer, SodaStream. The letter is a follow up to a 2014 counterpart and in-person protests, and includes people invloved in the comics industry beyond cartoonists, among them writers and critics Jeet Heer, David Brothers, and Rob Clough, in addition to 10 Angoulême prize winners, two winners of the MacArthur 'Genius Grant,' many Eisner and Ignatz awardees, and a Palestinian cartoonist previously imprisoned for his work by the Israeli military.

SodaStream has been the subject of various international boycotts for locating its main plant in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, with the company subsequently announcing it would be closing the factory by late 2015 and moving the plant to Lehavim in Israel’s southern Negev region, a decision it stated was due to 'purely commercial' reasons. However, a statement made by the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, which has been garnering increasing international support in taking tougher action against Israel, makes clear that this does not signal the  end of the problem: 'Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians. Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab [Negev] desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights.'

Cartoonist Ethan Heitner, and writer Dror Warschawski, organisers of the open letter, also released an accompanying statement in the wake of the slaying of cartoonists Wolinski, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Charb, among many others in Paris earlier this month, 'These horrific acts of violence compel artists of the world to act urgently for a world where the dignity, freedom, and equality of all people are respected and promoted. We affirm that the Palestinian boycott movement is one important step towards that vision, and we urge others to join us.'

Angoulême opens in France on January 29th. A full transcript of the letter is reproduced below:

"Open letter to:

          Monsieur Franck Bondoux

We, cartoonists, illustrators, writers, editors, distributors, translators, critics and workers in the comic book industry, alongside people of conscience from countries all over the world, re-affirm our February 2014 call for the Angoulême International Comics Festival to drop all ties with the Israeli company Sodastream. Furthermore, we urge the Angoulême Festival, and all festivals, conventions, and celebrations of comics and cartooning art in which we participate, to reject any partnership, funding, or co-operation with any Israeli company or institution that does not explicitly promote freedom and justice for Palestinians, as well as equal rights and equality for Israeli Jews and Palestinians, including the Israeli government and its local consulates, so long as Israel continues to deny Palestinians their rights.

Today, the Sodastream company proudly boasts of its factory’s location in the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, which makes it complicit in the crime of military occupation. However, even if Sodastream, thanks in part to the pressure campaign launched last year, moved its manufacturing to the Negev (where Palestinian Bedouins are facing eviction from their ancestral lands by Israeli government’s Prawer Plan) it, and other Israeli companies and institutions, are part of a system built on the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities and sustained through racism and discrimination. It, and other Israeli companies, contribute to the economy of a state which conducted a brutal military assault against a civilian population in Gaza in the summer of 2014, resulting in over 2,100 deaths, including over 500 children.

We cannot accept our art being used to whitewash these crimes, as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs has explicitly stated it will attempt to do through its “Brand Israel” campaign. Angoulême, a center of appreciation for comics internationally, should not be used in this manner.

We again urge you to sever ties between the Festival and Sodastream, and we extend our call to directors and organizers, editors and associations of comics and illustration around the globe. No “business as usual” with lsrael!"

A full list of all signatories can be seen here. Anyone (involved in comics in some way) wishing to sign their name to the letter, or contribute graphics can email

Sophie Franz's gorgeous, rich sketchbook pages, & four-panel comics

I miss updating the blog on Fridays because it was close to the weekend and the excuse for art-heavy, pictorial pieces was ripe. But Thursdays are almost the weekend, right? So it's as good as time as any to remind you about Sophie Franz, her amazing work, and the indisputable fact that you should all be following her Tumblr. These smudgy sketchbook page pieces appear to be a combination of painting, crayon and marker pens, and are even more gorgeous than her usual inked work- they're cartoony and appealing and yet so life-like, incorporating detail and technique- they have so much to them.

I love Fran'z use of light and shadow to create shine and texture; there's always at least one element that demands the attention on the page: in the first page it's the girls shiny, bubble-esqe, bright orange hair contrasting with her striped green bathing suit, juxtaposed against the very tangible bristle and curl of the young boy's hair opposite. On the second page below, it's all that rich, soft colour fathered in the top right-hand corner: the green, black, red, purple and blue. some of it sharper and I love the way she fills a page. The third page, I'm hugely appreciative of anyone who pays attention to fashion and style right now, so I like the patterns on the dress and skirt, the designs of the outfits, but also catching the eye is the pale lady with the white bob and large eyes. The fine-lined black inked section at the bottom of that page again throws the rest of it into relief- there's another boobed hair lady her face obscured by shadow. And in the final page, you just have that central lady with the pensive, worried look downwards with this magnificently rendered hair flowing all around her shoulders.

Franz is able to draw different faces and characters so well; often with artists you can recognise their work by their people looking a particular way (either deliberately or unintentionally) but Franz's faces you can see she's interested in observing people and capturing nuances and individuality- the're distinct- characters you could take off the page and build stories around. She's got a really good use of colour, too: unafraid and arresting, as if she doesn't feel like she has to use it for the sake of it, but where it's needed, or as an experiment to gauge an effect. I like that she plays around with lettering too. She honestly just leaves me in awe. She can take on so many styles- sometimes I'm reminded of Kyle Baker, sometimes Joesph Lambert, but ultimately she has a huge, versatile talent and ability that upon seeing her work, nothing makes me quite as excited about art and comics. Franz is publishing a comic with Retrofit Comics this year, and it's one of my most anticipated books- I can't wait to see what she comes up. I've caught some anthology work she's done here and there, but this will be her first significant print work, and I'm eager to get my hands on it. Go follow her Tumblr.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Coco Moodysson's teenage punk memoir 'Aldrig Godnatt' (Never Goodnight) comes to English

A film I saw garnering warm praise last year was Lukas Mooysson's We Are The Best! about 3 young girls growing up in 1980's Sweden and their mission to form a punk band. Mooysoon's acclaimed film (the trailer for which you can view here), a special selection at Toronto International Film Festival, is based on his wife, writer and graphic novelist, Coco Mooysson's comic book Aldrig Godnatt [Never Goodnight], published in 2008, which recounts her own autobiographical experiences of growing up in Stockholm. Thanks to the success of the film, Mooysson's 200-page book will be getting an English language release in April this year from  The Friday Project- the experimental imprint of Harper Collins.

'Coco, Klara and Mathilda have known each other since primary school where they met in Folk Dancing class. But now they’re almost teenagers and their anarchist ideals set them apart from the other girls at school. Despite the constant declaration from all that punk is dead they dream of starting a punk band and being as big as The Clash. The only problem is they can’t play any instruments and mainly practice with pillows and pans. Never Goodnight is a dark and witty depiction of growing up in a dysfunctional family, when music, friends and boys offer up all the possibilities in the world.'

I like the look of this; the style is very familiar in that spindly, neat alt comix way, similar to both Corrine Muccha and Yumi Sakugagwa to a lesser degree and the subject matter is an affirming, female-centric one that I can see appealing to a lot of people. Mooysson recently discussed the book and the film her husband was inspired to make from it with the New York Times, and the impetuous behind the girls desire to start their own band: 'There were no role models around that time. There were Swedish girl bands, but they were older, and their songs were about having sex and we thought that was disgusting.' She also spoke with Female First about the origins of the book:

'I remember I was writing a short piece for a comic magazine in Sweden, it was called ‘I Remember My Mother’s Lovers And How They Use To Touch Her.’ It took place in 1982-83, but there was something about this time in my life that I wanted to work with. I liked the tone that I had found in this and wanted to continue. There is something very interesting about the age of twelve, thirteen, and fourteen, when you are not a child anymore and you are curious. At the same time, you are not afraid because you have not gone through hard times that come after... I think that the comic is a little bit darker than the film.' 

Never Goodnight will be published by The Friday Project in April.

Judge Dredd Mega collection starts with John Wagner and Colin MacNeil's seminal 'America'

Image via Mike Molcher's Tumblr

The Judge Dredd Mega collection hits stores this week. Hatchett are reprinting a collection of definitive Dredd stories in hardback editions, beginning with John Wagner's and Colin MacNeil's America, widely considered to be one of the best Dredd stories ever told. In addition to collating out of print material and stories, these new volumes will include specially commissioned feature content exploring Dredd’s world, interviews with the creators, previously unseen sketches and designs, giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the development of classic characters, scenes and storylines. The spines of the books (80 in total, I believe) are each printed with part of an illustration, that when assembled together with all of the volumes produces a complete, new piece of art. 

I've been venturing further and further into the Dredd-verse and very much liking what I've read there so far. Wagner's and MacNeil's America is a masterpiece, one of those books that you should read regardless of your thoughts or familiarity with Dredd (it reads fine as a standalone). The story of two childhood friends, Bennett Beeny and America Jara who grow up and apart together, America charts how each deals with living in an oppressive system in which they have no choice and power. When the two are eventually bought back together, Beeny is now a successful singer, and America now a member of a terrorist organisation which has the downfall of the Judges in mind. The emotions and frustrations and actions are so acutely captured and realised, while making it's main character- Dredd- as the antagonist is a risky but super effective move. It works on many levels, as political commentary, as a tragedy, as a great story, and remains relevant and fresh today. Wagner's a superb writer, but MacNeil's art really elevates things to another level here- take a look at some of the excerpts below to see what I'm talking about. It's a very good choice to kick off this kind of series; accessible and high quality, and will be available in stores this Wednesday, with the first volume, America, priced at £1.99 (for a hardback book). If you've been curious about Dredd or have never read America, or are just looking for a superior reading experience, you'll want to pick this one up.

The Mega collection volumes will release fortnightly and are priced at £9.99 each from the third issue onwards. Available in the UK and the Republic of Ireland only.

UK comics distro, Impossible Books, shuts up shop

UK comics distributors, Impossible Books, announced last week that February 28th would be their final day of business. Run by Camila Barboza and Taylor Lilley, Impossible Books began life in 2013, curating and gathering a wide range of small press and independent comics for sale online, and quickly became a much-needed and appreciated point of call for comics fans within the UK in particular, as shipping costs from the US grew increasingly untenable. That will all be ending next month, though, as Barboza and Lilley found they simply no longer have the time to be able to run Impossible and decided the wisest choice would be to end it now instead of allowing it to gradually fall to the wayside. As with so many things in comics, distro is another thing you do for the love and not for the money, and I certainly know on my part that I'm incredibly grateful that Impossible existed- it kept me (affordably) connected to North American independent comics for that bit longer, and the selection of comics has always been unimpeachable. Here's an excerpt from the statement announcing the news of the imminent closure;

'Two years ago we got together and decided we wanted to build something, something cool and fun and challenging that people would enjoy. And thanks to you, and the sleeper agent Impossibilians everywhere, we got to unlock that particular achievement. You, all of you, rock the absolute hardest. From the publishers, creators, and distributors who advised, approached and supported us, to the journalists who linked to us and the fans who browsed the site, on to the stalwarts who turned up month after month to buy the comics we loved… We are two of the luckiest people ever, and we thank all of you from the bottom of our tiny paper hearts.

Things have changed for both of us in the last 6 months, and we haven’t been able to devote the time and energy to Impossible that we would like to. So after some crying, some screaming, and one definite tantrum, we have decided to shutter the Impossible store. We are sad to leave, but so proud and happy that you all helped us get where we did. You’re awesome!

And we’re going out with a bang, not a whimper. January is our closing month, and every week we’ll be offering deeper discounts on our current stock, but only while we have it to sell. Do you wait, or do you get it while the getting’s good? It’s an Impossible decision.'

So as a final hurrah, they've stared a sale with 20% off which will decrease each week. I've picked out 5 excellent titles you really shouldn't miss out on grabbing- some of these are already sold out everywhere else, while others like 'Mothers' are hard to find. These are also all books I'd recommend unreservedly, if that means something. I've been checking in now and again and they're shifting comics fast, so if you want to get in on the action, now is proabably a better time than later.

Frontier by Hellen Jo £4.70
Gold Star by John Martz £2.90
New Sludge City by Brendan Leach £2.90
Mothers by Most Ancient £4
Nava #1 and #2 by Olle Forsloff and Mikael Lopez £5.80 each

A big thank you to Impossible for all the great comics, cheap postage, and super service; you'll be very much missed. Best wishes and luck to Barboza and Lilley with all and any ongoing and future ventures.

From Frontier #2 by Hellen Jo

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Interview: Becca Tobin

Becca Tobin is a cartoonist and illustrator from Glasgow, Scotland, whose work I first came across online last year. Her rich and lurid watercolour painted art is at once attractive and appealing while the wavers of her lines hint at emotional psychologies. Tobin has self-published various comics- largely to sell at conventions and festivals or digital editions available online, and this year she is one of the artists making up Youth in Decline's 2015 monograph series, Frontier. Like Ines Estrada, her use and command of colour is superb -it's rich and bright, and plays into the tone and pressures implied within the work, but it never seems wrong. Towards the end of the last year, she published Night Florist, a collection of her paintings and a few comics strips with Scottish publishers, Do-Gooder Comics. Tobin's work speaks for itself, but I'm particularly excited to see her emergence as a British artist; one of the things the UK comics scene has suffered from in the past has been a lack of diversity in styles which fed into a staidness, and she is one of a number of cartoonists whose work feels fresh and vibrant and modern.

How did your interest in art and comics develop- was there one facet that came first, or have you simply always read and wanted to make comics?

Comics have always been a part of my life, when I was small I used to read a lot of Tintin comics and Far Side collections and in my teens I was obsessed with manga. As a kid I read European comics that made it over to the UK, a lot of Tintin and Asterix books. I loved that they were fun adventure stories full of great drawings and expressions. My grandparents owned a LOT of Far Side comics and a big collection of Peanuts, and I’d read them repeatedly whenever we went to stay. Then I was a teen in the 2000s manga boom, so for years manga was pretty much all I read! Reading shoujo titles was the first time I’d encountered comics by female artists and it really blew my mind. Before that comics seemed impenetrable and kind of a boys club to me, seeing cool, interesting work made by women made it seem like something I could do too. I drew so many bad romance comics in my teens as a result, but it was important and kept me drawing and writing!

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw and making comics developed kind of naturally out of that. For a long time I used to agonize over devoting time to drawing or writing, and eventually I decided to mash them both together! For me comics is the most fulfilling way of engaging in both disciplines, when I’m bored of writing I can draw and vice versa, it keeps me constantly interested. Illustration is something I’ve only been doing professionally for about six months, it emerged out of art directors seeing my personal work and comics. It’s very different to working on my own stuff but I love the challenge of learning and improving! I still feel like I’m feeling my way with it though.

These days I read a bit of everything, most of the comics I buy are ones I pick up at shows, I go for whatever looks interesting and appealing to me, or stuff I’ve seen online that I want to grab. I’d like to buy more comics but I’m usually broke so I have to curtail my spending!

Was there a definite point that you can pick out when you decided this is what I want to do as a living/career?

Probably in 2012, at that time I was living in the US studying abroad and I went along to the Small Press Expo in Maryland. It was the first comics show I’d ever gone to and it was the first time I met people who were making a career out of their art and comics. It seemed like an achievable thing to do and it made me really energized to go and make my own stuff. 

Did you pursue a related qualification in art or illustration, or are you wholly self-taught?

I’m pretty much entirely self taught! I did a traditional oil painting course for a few months in my third year at university and I have an A level in art, but most of the stuff I’ve learnt has just been from sitting around, drawing a lot and trying different things.

Do you draw digitally or analogue? Or a mix of the two?

I pretty much draw entirely analogue. I use a lot of traditional media, I love watercolour paints and I’ve been enjoying using soft pencils for toning recently. I’ll often mess around a little with levels and stuff on photoshop after scanning, but I try and get the art looking as close to how I want it on paper. I’d like to improve my digital skills but I love drawing on real life paper too much, I’m a messy artist! I clean my brushes on my hands and use my fingers to blend paints and pencils. It’s much harder to physically affect a digital drawing so I get more frustrated with it. 

You're one of a group of notable cartoonists online. When did you start sharing you work on the internet? How helpful has it been to have an online presence- in terms of people being aware of you and your work, or to you in terms of having an audience?

For me, having an online presence has been completely vital to showing people my work and having an audience. I’m able to share work and talk with people all over the world, a lot of my peers and friends in comics I’ve met through putting my work on the internet. I started putting my work up in 2011 when one of my friends convinced me to get a tumblr to my put my art on. I feel like starting out putting art online is great because it’s free and pretty easy, anybody can see your stuff, despite its problems, the internet is a level playing field in that respect. 

I love your style, especially your use of colour, which is an instrumental facet in making your work so distinctive and special. Is colouring something that you spend time considering- the effect and interplay of, or is it more organic?

My colouring process is pretty intuitive, I don’t know much about colour theory so I end to go on what feels good rather than fixing a colour scheme or anything. When I go into colouring a comic or picture, I usually have an idea in my head of what kind of atmosphere I want to convey, and that’s a good starting point colour wise. After that I usually let things grow on their own as I go, I never really know how things are going to turn out until they’re finished which is exciting. Recently I’ve been trying limiting my colours, experimenting with one or two tones, especially in comics, so I can try and communicate more simply with line and shape and develop that part of my drawing. 

There are a few recurring themes in your work- connectivity, the mystical and spiritual- are these things you have an interest in exploring, or an affiliation with the imagery?

I was raised in an evangelical church with Roman Catholic grandparents, so for a lot of my life growing I was surrounded with really vivid religious imagery, unexplained symbols and sacred objects. Evangelical Christianity has a lot of linguistic focus on fire and blood and intense feeling, and although I’m no longer religious it left me with an interest in that intense spiritual mindset and I’m still fascinated with how people interact with invisible, magic stuff. 

I love that through comics and paintings I can explore my own idea of the spiritual and the magic, for me these concepts lie in nature and personal connection. I like exaggerating both of those things and making them dreamlike and a bit uncomfortable, undulating forests and people who can’t stop touching each other. I think maybe by expanding them I hope to create more room to understand them?? I get to pay close attention to small feelings and simple moments and invent worlds around them, and it’s something I don’t really get tired of exploring because my own views and experiences are always changing.

A lot of your comics are humorous- I always imagine that making people smile or laugh is one of the hardest things to do. How do you approach that, as opposed to say a straight comic, and what do you like about doing it?

I usually just write what makes me laugh! Sometimes I’m writing a straight comic and lose my nerve at the last second and make it into a joke, usually if I feel I’m being corny or self indulgent, I’ll turn it on its head. I usually write out parts of the joke before I draw anything, just to keep it tight and not too overworked, more serious comics tend to be more steam of consciousness for me. Really the best way I’ve found of writing funny comics is just to make myself laugh with them, those tend to be the ones I feel are the most successful. 

Your characters and the sheer mix of plant beings, animals, humans, all manner of creatures- is it fun to come up with a different. Is there a particular reason you chose to use these sort of characters rather than humans?

I tend to use anthropomorphic characters because I think they provide a blank space on which the reader can project whatever they want onto them in a way that’s harder to do with exclusively human figures. I think non-human characters can act as a way of making a story non-exclusive to one race or gender, which is something I’m interested in exploring. There are no rules to how dogs or cats or plant people behave! It helps me be more creative with narrative, I feel like I have more licence to create my own universe rules and structures. Plus on a basic level it’s really fun to come up with cool designs for characters!

What is that you get out of comics, as a reader, and as a creator? What do they give/offer you?

I think comics give me a lot of versatility, both in what I create and what I consume. I like how they can read very cinematically or like poetry, and how it’s easy to make anything happen quickly and with next to no budget. Really there are no rules as to what a comic has to be, and I think we’re in a time where people are making comics that look interesting and different: totally varied dependent on the person. I think that out of all mediums, comics really benefit from people being able to do what they want and people being able to carve out their own look. That freedom is great!

Do you take much notice of the culture surrounding the medium- issues affecting it, changes taking place- do you see those as affecting you ever, or something that you keep abreast of, to be aware?

I try to keep informed about issues and changes facing the industry, but I tend to leave the commenting to people other than myself. There are often people who are more informed than me, saying intelligent things about comics already, and I’d rather provide a space for those voices rather than add my own. So yeah, I guess I try to keep informed but I don’t engage all that much.

What do you draw influence from? Who are some of your favourite comic creators/books?

I love psychedelic and visionary art from the sixties and seventies, it’s so unabashedly beautiful! I especially like Joseph Parker’s big paintings of kaleidoscope sunsets and tropical islands, they’re gorgeous to look at. I love looking at any cool watercolour paintings (cartoonist-wise obviously Simon Hanselmann the paint wizard), also anything kind of lavish and kitschy: old fantasy novel illustrations, B movies, the X Files. I love stuff that is kind of silly subject wise but is executed seriously with care and attentiveness.

I’ve been loving Lala Albert’s comics recently, her dreamy stories and fleshy naked people are amazing to me! Also Sophia Foster-Dimino is producing so many consistently great comics right now, I’m excited by everything she puts out. I’m always a big fan of Lynda Barry, I’d love to get a hold of her new book sometimes soon, and anything by Mare Odomo. 

Here are some other people I think are making great stuff: Iasmin Omar-ata, Madeline Flores, Laura Knetzger, Brian Fukushima, Eleanor Davis, Mia Schwartz, Kelly Kwang, Lauren Jordan, Jake Lawrence, HTML Flowers, JMKE. 

You're doing a book with Youth in Decline next year- is there anything else in the pipeline for 2015, in terms of what you want to achieve, goals?

I’m doing a minicomic with Comic Book Slumber Party, tentatively called Hotel World that’ll be out before TCAF and will be coming with me there. As I’ve only been drawing as my full time job for about 6 months, a lot of my aims are learning more about how to be a professional artist, I’d like to do more freelance illustration, and grab any opportunities that come my way.  I want to keep making a lot of new stuff, I really want to focus on storytelling this year and make a lot of comics. I feel like I’m off to a good start so far, I want to continue it through the new year.

Ron Wimberly re-imagines Wonder Woman mythos for dynamic and stylish OOSA print

I follow the Out Of Step Arts -or OOSA- collective on Tumblr largely for the incredible art, but also to keep abreast of what the artists involved are doing. The group, set up by Neil Bramlette, consists of a number of excellent artists, some of whom clearly share aesthetic sensibilities (and ones that appeal to me): Nathan Fox, Toby Cypress, Paul Maybury, Chris Visions, Ming Doyle, Andrew Maclean, Logan Faerber, Alexis Ziritt, Greg Ruth, and Liz Suburbia. In addition to selling the resident artists original work and exclusive prints, OOSA also bring in guest artists each month, signing them up to design and produce a print which is then available for a limited amount of time. And January's guest artist is none other than the superb Ronald Wimberly, and as ever with Wimberly he's stepped up to the plate in signature style, with a re-imagining of Wonder-Woman, Diana, and her mythos: 

'About WARP-D: Bondage Justice Gaiden: Diana is the princess of the Amazons, a technologically advanced, matriarchal utopia that broke off from the rest of mankind around 400 BC. Amazonia, their home, is nearly impossible to find or to escape; it’s protected by an elite force of soldiers called the C.L.A.Y. Rangers. Every generation a single great woman is picked from the elite C.L.A.Y. training program and sent to be an ambassador to the rest of the world. She is known as the Amazon Ranger. When Diana decides to run away from her kush princess life she secretly joins the C.L.A.Y. program and is selected to be the next Amazon Ranger, but when her mother,  finds out she’s left she enlists the best of the legendary C.L.A.Y. Rangers to find and return her to Amazonia. Now Diana is on the run in our world, and if fighting the C.LA.Y. elite weren’t enough, for the first time in her life she faces a world that needs feminism. Will her dexterity and cunning be enough to escape the bondage facing her at home and abroad?' 

What with Wimberley's take on Blade, and Cloak and Dagger, and now Wonder-Woman, it'd be cool to see him take on some of these characters, but cooler still to see him making his own comics once more; Wimberly's got such an individual and distinctive approach and style that I'm always happy to see more of. The print itself is a typically dynamic affair: Diana posed in the center, ready to take on all comers, in her famous hands on hips stance, with the top and bottom sections of the images split by an outline that smartly mirrors her crown and the WW symbol. The four inset panels in each corner offer both close-up details of her helmet, face and also full body shots as she changes into her fighting gear/costume, and hark back to the comic medium. I really love the colours here, which are unexpected but fresh- the pink and blue and then that pale, greeny yellow. It works to emphasise the new direction in breaking away from the colours she's traditionally associated with, whilst there being enough design elements to recognise the character. The print is giclee on 13 x 19 inches on 265 gsm 100% cotton paper printed with Ultrachrome inks, and you can buy it here. OOSA have a great line-up of guest starts for the coming year, which includes Heather Mahler, Conor Nolan, Tony Millionaire, Sail, Phil Noto, Brandon Graham, Tula Lotay, and Aaron Conley- definitely interested in seeing what tony Millionaire, Lotay, and Graham come up with.

New from Kate Beaton in 2015: 'Step Aside, Pops' and 'The Princess and the Pony'

The LA Times announced some pretty damn exciting news on Tuesday: Drawn & Quarterly will be publishing a new comics collection from the excellent Kate Beaton this September. Step Aside, Pops will collate a selection of Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant strips from her site and 2011 book of the same name, in addition to the inclusion of newer material. If you're wondering about the title, it's named after Beaton’s cartoon featuring a feisty velocipedestrienne, which you can read here. Beaton's a brilliant, hugely popular cartoonist, but she's taken taken a very careful and considered approach after the success of Hark! A Vagrant, which spent 5 months on the New York Times bestseller's list and was received to great critical acclaim. Another collection of her smart and witty, unique-spin-on-history/literature comics in the meantime seems like a no-brainer; I'm certainly not the only person more than happy to be able to have all of her work in print and on my bookshelf. So this is genuinely very good news for all. That's a super cover as well- the blue and brown, but simply the illustration by Beaton which is so effective- the expression on the lady's face, the eyebrows, the folded arms, the legs, all imbue it with humour and attitude, and that's precisely where a large part of Beaton's ability lies- the ability to imbue all that in her comics, to have that coupled with her writing and concepts.

I know I said Beaton has been taking her time to consider what her next project will be, and while that's true, she has been working away on something: a children's picture book. Before Step Aside, Pops releases in September, Scholastic will be publishing her The Princess and the Pony this June. As you know I'm a massive fan of picture books- the genre being home to a lot of interesting and incredibly good illustration work- and as a Beaton fan also, this is firmly pencilled in on my 'things to buy' list. The Princess and the Pony features another one of Beaton's memorable characters; this time one who has sort of taken on a life of its own- Fat Pony. Fat Pony began life as a silent side character but was too cute for his own good and now has to work at being the star of his own book. Having been the subject of his own dedicated mugs and t-shirts, and appeared in Adventure Time I think he's probably ready for the job. The Princess and the Pony is a 40-page hardback (I'm guessing colour) story of Princess Pinecone who knows exactly what she wants for her birthday this year: a big, strong horse, a horse for a warrior princess. But when the day arrives, she doesn’t quite get the horse she expected... Be honest: that sounds perfect- just look at Fat Pony's little legs and big eyes and tell me this isn't going to be amazing. So yes, two Kate Beaton books in 2015 (so far) to look forward to is splendid news- it's certainly perked my January up considerably.